Parsing the Poetics of Letitia Landon’s “song of grief and love”
Letitia Elizabeth Landon was one of the most successful Victorian female writers enjoying an enviable popularity in an age that laid down strict codes for women in general, and women authors in particular. Her poems reveal an abiding engagement with India and Indian women. In the Victorian annuals like Fisher’s Scrapbook as well as her own long poems like The Improvisatrice, she returns to the idea of an ‘Indianness’ that becomes a recognisable shorthand for certain desirable feminine qualities. In developing her trademark theme of melancholia – a recyclable formula with the ingredients of sorrow, beauty, love and death – India became an important imaginary identity. My article proposes to explore how Landon employs the idea of India, in an age when Britain was increasingly growing fascinated by its expanding empire, in order to construct a saleable self-image that made her into the recognisable brand name L. E. L. I will examine the interstitial spaces between the two cultures as they reveal themselves in the works of a writer who has long been relegated to the margins by the politics of canonisation and is only just beginning to enjoy the scholarly attention she deserves. And in studying this iconic poet of her time, my paper also questions whether our notions of Victorian British identities and its equations with other cultures need to be reoriented in the light of writings that were till now relegated to the dusty archives.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Debnita Chakravarti, "Parsing the Poetics of Letitia Landon’s 'song of grief and love'", in "Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere 23 (2018)", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2018, pp. 67-88